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China Japan Relations
Special> China Japan Relations
UPDATED: April 9, 2007 No.15 APR.12, 2007
Clearing away the Ice
China and Japan are on the right path to developing a "culture of trust"

Economic interactions between countries usually contribute to the reduction of conflict or friction over political and national security issues. However, as political interests and national security are higher priorities for a nation, economic interactions have a limited role in preventing nations from clashing with each other. Out of political and national security considerations, a country tends to care not only about how much it has, but more about how much others have. A country often worries that the growing economic power of its rival might turn into military power and hence pose a military threat to it.

As a Chinese scholar once said, "Trust is both the precondition and the product of cooperation." If Japan sees the peaceful development of China as a threat, while Asian countries such as China worry about the resurgence of Japan's militarism, then the mutual confidence between the two countries will be weakened. This discomfort and skepticism are magnified through the lens of history. The precondition for a strategic, mutually beneficial relationship is to overcome the lack of trust and a sense of insecurity, and enhance strategic confidence.

China and Japan should develop a "culture of trust." A culture of trust will foster trust, while a culture of distrust can evoke distrust. One key issue in bilateral relations is how to remove distrust and promote trust. Summit-level exchanges between the two countries will improve bilateral relations and deepen mutual understanding and trust in a way that is unparalleled by other types of visits, because of the intensive communications between the two sides to prepare for the summit visits, including discussions of diplomatic protocol arrangements and press releases, dialogues between politicians and business people accompanying the leaders, and discussions between the media and ordinary persons, as well as domestic and foreign media coverage of the visits.

Highlighting the significance of summit-level visits is not to undermine the importance of person-to-person contact. History reveals that "civilian diplomacy" paved the way for former Japanese Prime Minister Kakuei Tanaka's visit to China and for the normalization of diplomatic ties between China and Japan in 1972. In the same vein, "civilian diplomacy," that is, person-to-person contact, has played an important role in the recent "re-normalization" of Sino-Japanese relations.

Being close neighbors across a narrow strip of water, there are favorable timing, geographical and human conditions for China and Japan to strengthen bilateral exchanges. "Favorable timing" refers to the overall tide of the era, that is, peace and development, globalization and regional economic integration, and increasing concern over such new challenges as environmental pollution. "Favorable geographical conditions" refers to the geographical proximity of the two countries. People can go across the border without suffering from jet lag, and cargo does not have to be transported over a long distance on the sea.

By "favorable human conditions" we mean that as Eastern countries, China and Japan adhere to a Confucian culture, which values "peace" and "trust." In the spirit of peace and trust, the two peoples have gotten along well with each other for over 2,000 years.

By "setting into motion the two wheels of exchange at the level of top leaders and statesmen, as well as through people-to-people exchange," we believe that the "culture of trust" between China and Japan will grow. With a "culture of trust," the two countries will be honest with each other, take history as a mirror and look forward to the future, and abide by the three political documents they have signed.

The author is senior research fellow at the Institute of Japanese Studies, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences

Chinese Premier Discusses China-Japan Relations

Shortly before he began his visit to Japan this month, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao spoke to the Beijing correspondents of 16 Japanese media organizations on April 4. Key points of the premier's remarks follow:

Boosting bilateral links

A joint document will be issued during the visit demonstrating the two countries' aspirations for building a mutually beneficial strategic relationship and detailing its features and major tasks. It will be a significant event, as it will mark the advent of a new era in bilateral relations. Principles guiding this relationship include enhanced mutual trust, commitment to promises, taking the whole situation into consideration, seeking common ground while shelving differences, pursuing common development based on equality and mutual benefit, promoting exchanges in light of the future, and addressing challenges through close consultation.

History issues

The repeated visits of a certain Japanese leader to the war-related Yasukuni Shrine over the past few years have deeply hurt the feelings of the Chinese people and soured bilateral relations. We hope it will never happen again. This year commemorates the 35th anniversary of the normalization of diplomatic relations between China and Japan and the 70th anniversary of the Lugouqiao Incident that marked the beginning of Japan's all-out aggression against China in 1937. Against this backdrop, there are both opportunities and challenges in the relationship between China and Japan. The two countries should handle bilateral relations from a strategic, long-term perspective. We hope that the Japanese side will refrain from doing anything that may hurt the feelings of the Chinese people.

Economic ties

China-Japan economic and trade relations have made great strides since the two countries normalized their diplomatic relations 35 years ago. Given the challenges of globalization, it is of vital importance to strengthen bilateral cooperation, especially in the fields of energy conservation, environmental protection, hi-tech research and development, promotion of small and medium-sized enterprises, financial services and information technology. China practices an opening-up policy and is open to economic and trade cooperation with Japan. We are willing to forge stronger ties with Japan on the basis of equality and mutual benefit. China and Japan should also make the most of multilateral mechanisms such as the World Trade Organization, Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) Plus Three and the East Asia Summit. They should enhance coordination and exchanges in these forums in a bid to address global challenges of energy shortages and climate change and jointly promote the establishment of a just and fair multilateral trading regime.

Trust-building in security field

China pursues peaceful development, a road that is determined by China's national conditions, cultural traditions and state system. China's defense expenditures are not high considering its 1.3 billion population. It is lower than that of many developed countries and that of some developing countries too. The point is that China's limited military forces are solely for the purpose of safeguarding national security and integrity. China and Japan are influential countries in Northeast Asia and the world at large. China is willing to strengthen military exchanges and defense dialogue with Japan to deepen mutual trust, dispel misunderstandings, prevent conflicts and jointly make contributions to peace and development in the region and the world.

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